Lebanon: Sunday saw the most serious escalation in the north. In a series of attacks 18 Israelis; soldiers and civilians were injured. In a series of attacks, 18 Israelis – soldiers and civilians – were injured.
- In Moshav Dolev, four vehicles suffered a direct hit from anti-tank missile fire, and ten civilians were wounded. Of the wounded, six worked for the Electricity Corporation and were there to make repairs. One of the workers is in critical condition and five others in serious condition.
- In the area of Manara, seven soldiers were wounded from an anti-tank missile.
- Around 15 rockets were fired towards the Western Galilee, including Acco and Kiryat Bialik. Four were intercepted, the rest fell in open areas.
- There were also rockets and mortars fired at other areas, including Kiryat Shmone and Gornot Hagalil.
- A further two or three attacks on IDF soldiers have not yet been confirmed.
- In response to the attacks, the IDF used an array of ground and air to strike a number of Hezbollah targets. At least three launch cells were targeted, along with other military infrastructure inside Lebanon.
- For the first time since the war began, more air raid sirens were heard in the north than in southern Israel.
- This morning, at least 20 more rockets have been fired from Lebanon into Northern Israel, with no injuries reported yet.
Gaza Strip: On Sunday, the IDF provided 300 litres of fuel for urgent medical purposes for the Shifa Hospital, however Hamas prevented the hospital from receiving the fuel.
- The fuel is currently outside the compound in jerry cans. Although the IDF are not yet fully in control of the area, they are said to be guarding the fuel so it is not expropriated by Hamas.
- In parallel, the IDF opened an additional passage to assist Gazan civilians to evacuate from the Shifa, Rantisi and Nasser hospitals
- The IDF are in direct contact with the Shifa Hospital director to coordinate safe passage allowing civilians to evacuate, on foot and by ambulances.
- Last week, there were around 60,000 people in the hospital compound, now down to 1,000.
- During the fighting, the IDF continued their impressive tactical successes, revealing how intercepting real time intel and relaying to the troops on the ground allowed infantry soldiers to kill seven terrorists within ten minutes.
- The IDF has struck over 15,000 terror targets, destroyed over 100 terror tunnel shafts and more than 6000 weapons while operating within the Gaza Strip.
- In the last day, two more soldiers have been killed, taking the total to 44 since the ground operation began.
- Israel estimates over 3,000 Hamas fighters have been killed, but neither side has released details. According to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, over 10,000 Palestinians have been killed.
- Israel is jointly coordinating efforts to bring in humanitarian aid, along with the US, Egypt, and the UN. More than 820 trucks containing approximately 13,200 tons of aid have entered into Gaza, including over 3,000 tons of food, 1,720+ tons of medical equipment, 600+ tons of equipment for temporary shelters and over 1.15 million litres of water.
Context: The escalation in the north compounds the strategic dilemmas for Israeli decision makers.
- The IDF remains focused on targeting and decommissioning Hamas military infrastructure, whilst pressuring Hamas to release hostages.
- In theory, the IDF has capacity to fight a second front simultaneously, with only 10 per cent of the Israeli Air Force committed to the south. However, the preference until now has been to keep the focus on the south and only then to turn to the north.
- There is a consensus in Israel that the northern border communities that have already been evacuated will not return to their homes unless the Hezbollah threat, and specifically their elite Radwan fighters remain poised on the border, is neutralised.
- The IDF’s objective is therefore to remove that immediate threat and push Hezbollah north, beyond the Litani River.
- There are efforts, led by the US and France, to find a diplomatic solution to remove Hezbollah from the south, but there is limited expectation this can succeed.
- Israel’s approach until now has been to target cells that launch attacks, either during or after, even sometimes beforehand. In this way that been These efforts have been successful in decommissioning Hezbollah’s capacity and have so far killed 73 Hezbollah operatives.
- Part of the calculation is how to respond to every attack in a calibrated manner that causes damage without provoking Hezbollah into a wider conflict.
- Following Hezbollah’s leader Nasrallah’s speech on Saturday, there was hope that this signified Hezbollah was deterred from a wider confrontation for three reasons:
- Hezbollah has lost the element of surprise to launch an invasion of their Radwan force. The IDF is heavily deployed in the border, and the closest civilian communities have been evacuated.
- The US military posture serves as a stark warning that an escalation will be met by a US response.
- They see the pictures from Gaza, and hear Defence Minister Gallant’s warning to Beirut.
- However, others see Sunday’s attacks as evidence of Hezbollah’s objective to ratchet up the pressure on Israel, occupy their forces, threaten Israeli civilians, all whilst keeping the conflict below the threshold of all-out war.
- Meanwhile, there is ongoing speculation over a potential prisoner exchange. The latest formulation suggests 80 hostages; children, women and sick elderly would be released over a three to five day ceasefire which would allow increased aid to enter the Strip, including fuel. Israel would also release women and minors held in Israeli prisons.
Looking ahead: Only once the hospitals have been evacuated can the IDF fully target the terror infrastructure underneath.
- There is speculation that Israel is keen for Tony Blair to represent the international community and take the role of humanitarian coordinator for the Gaza Strip.,
- The Israeli government understands the need to restore the sense of security to residents of both the north and the south before they are able to return home.